Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What Wilt Thou?

Life of Christ 140

          It is the last week of Jesus' life. He and His Apostles are traveling the regular pilgrim route from Galilee to Jerusalem. Along the way, they cross over the Jordan River, and pass through Jericho. Normally, the pilgrims would rest in Jericho before spending the next day ascending 3600 feet in elevation through a rocky gorge to the outskirts of Jerusalem.
          It is in this setting, while resting at Jericho, that Jesus heals two blind beggars, one of whose names we know, Bar Timaeus, the son of Timaeus (Mark 10.46-52). As Jesus walked through the crowd of pilgrims in his vicinity, Bar Timaeus heard the commotion, and yelled loudly for Jesus. Jesus heard him, and instructed Bar Timaeus to be brought to Him. Jesus, of course, heals him of his blindness, but I want to draw from this familiar story one particularly wonderful lesson I find here – the importance of specific prayer.

          Bar Timaeus called loudly for mercy, and as a blind man it was rather obvious what he most wanted from Jesus. Yet Jesus asked Bar Timaeus to be specific in his prayer. 'And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight' (Mark 10.51).
The moment Bar Timaeus called for Jesus he was praying. He prayed boldly, not ashamed that other people looked down on him for it. He prayed fervently, crying out repeatedly. He prayed respectfully, giving Jesus a messianic title. He prayed perseveringly, continuing on even though those around him tried to shut him up. Yet he did not receive anything until he prayed specifically.
We pray for God's blessing. How do you want Him to bless you? When do you want Him to do this? Why are you asking for this blessing? Certainly we ought to pray yielded to the will of God, and conscious that God has the right to refuse our request or amend it. Certainly some concepts we pray for will be rather nebulous. But neither of these facts ought to stop us from coming to God with clear and definite specific requests.
Specific prayer teaches us to know our own needs better. I've known men who were rather bad fathers and husbands to utter generic prayers asking God to bless their families. On the other hand, if they would have specified actual biblical truth with their requests they would have understood their own needs better. For instance, if you are unmarried, ask for a mate (Proverbs 18.22). Ask for help bringing up your children in the Lord (Ephesians 6.4). Ask God to bridge the generation gap between you and your children (Malachi 4.6). Ask God to keep close union in your marriage (Matthew 19.6). Ask God to help you love your wife (Ephesians 5.25). Ask God to help you follow your husband (Ephesians 5.22). Ask God to help you lead a holy life so the unsaved in your family will be convicted (I Peter 3.1). Ask God for your children's obedience (Ephesians 6.1). Ask God for your children's respect (Proverbs 30.17). We become more conscious of our Scriptural responsibilities and thus of our desperate need to have His help in order to accomplish them. Definite prayer leads to a specific rendering of our needs, and thus to a broader understanding of what those needs actually are.
In this way, specific prayer puts our desires to the test, revealing whether those desires are indeed scriptural. 'Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts' (James 4.3). Think of a liberal church in your area, one with a woman pastor, for instance. They probably ask God to bless their church just like you do. But if they would begin to pray specifically for God to bless their pastor they would quickly find that God will not, for their pastor is in open violation of the Word of God. When you ask God to bless something on a definite level it forces you to examine whether He scripturally can or not. Can we ask God for this? Should we ask God for this.
'God, bless the missionaries all around the world tonight.' How would you ever notice if He did? You have not asked Him anything specifically and so you have no idea if He has answered you. If your idea of prayer is to say words to God you have the wrong idea of it. Prayer is designed for you to use to get things from God. But if you do not ask for anything specifically you cannot receive anything.
Eliezer and Rebekah, Salomon de Bray, 1660
     In Genesis 24 there is a wonderful story. Abraham's steward is sent back to Abraham's home area to find a bride for Isaac. Wisely, the steward prayed for specific guidance. 'Let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac' (Genesis 24.14). When that specific happened it was not hard for the steward to know with certainty that this was the right woman. He had asked very specifically and gotten a very specific answer.
          Additionally, specific prayer helps us to be thankful. You can spend zero time thinking and murmur a prayer of gratitude to God on Thanksgiving Day for all the blessings He has given you. Alternatively, you can sit down, make a list of 75 different things God has done for you in the last year, and spend a very sweet 30 minutes praising the Lord. Unequivocally, I promise you the latter is marvelous. Yet most of God's people live the former, and live much poorer spiritual lives because of it.
          Do not just ask God to help you today. Tell Him specifically what you want Him to do.
          'Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.'

          'What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?'

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